I found out about meditation when I was a teenager. My boyfriend explained it to me, and referenced the technique of 'transcendental meditation', the one the Beatles had helped bring to Western consciousness. He also told me that I would have to find a guru in order to receive my 'personal' mantra, but until then I could use the universal mantra of Ohm.
I was introduced to meditation around the same time I was introduced to yoga and the I Ching. The Eastern philosophies seemed endlessly exotic and important and I used them whenever I felt the need to soothe my angst ridden entropy. Eventually I found Gurdieff and self-remembering and gravitated to a few other mystics who proclaimed that on some level magic is ordinary. I wanted magic, I wanted awe and inspiration and to be driven by my passion to write the greatest story ever told.
A decade or so later I enrolled in a university course called The Contemplative Practitioner with professor Jack Miller and discovered that meditation was being used to help teachers deal with the stress of large classrooms. Meditation was a practical and simple tool easily integrated with a daily routine. Jack suggested ten minutes each day at the same time and in the same location, sit, scan and relax the body, focus attention on breathing, and exhort a feeling of wellness by repeating a loving kindness statement popularized by the Buddist monk and author, Jack Kornfield, “May I be well and peaceful and happy.”
Those were the days of doing the Artist's Way and experimenting with creative practices that had nothing to do with my primary passion, to write, songs, books, poems, didn't matter, as long as there were words involved. I was walking downtown with a painter friend and we passed a bookstore and I spotted Jack Kornfield's book, A Path With Heart, in the window."Oh, I really need to get that book." I said. My friend grabbed my shoulder, "You mean you don't have a copy?"I shook my head and she left me on the street and went into the store. When she came out again she handed me my new book. "Everyone I know needs to have this book by their bedside."she said. I followed her advice and A Path With Heart became the one book I kept by my bedside for well over the following decade. I'd open it randomly and soak in the gentle wisdom whenever I felt the need to remember calm and acceptance and gratitude.
A couple more decades along I've had many opportunities to lead students through guided meditations and as often as not it's been Kornfield's 'Meditation on Loving Kindness' that I find myself repeating. The guidance begins, "May I be well and peaceful and happy." and then continues until the prayer has expanded outward to include the whole universe. "May all those sentient beings in the entire universe be well and peaceful and happy." Without fail this meditation brings people to a state of awe and often tears.
Spreading our 'positive vibes' out into the great beyond is a powerful act. It's electrifying, love on high speed, emotional intelligence flows into the galaxy and connects us directly to the mind of God.
"Life is not for the faint of heart." Have you heard that one? I appreciate it more now, having experienced the ups and downs often enough to know they don't subside as we progress through time; the roller coaster continues though the terrain may change. Meditation, and now breath work, or pranayama, have both proven to be powerful tools to help restore peace and acceptance. At least one of these practices begins and ends my day, either or both. And some days, when I need to focus, quiet my mind, and to prepare myself for taking the next best step, the breathing centres me right away. It's a kind of magic that happens, instant balance.
And in those times when I need to feel deeply into grief, when I've wanted to run from the pain and hide out in meditation and stillness, it's helped prepare me for the moment and given me courage and willpower. Many times it's been pranayama that saved me from breaking into tiny pieces and blowing away. But, big one, there is no escaping our emotions, and the only way to the other side of pain is to feel through it. To experience pain and sorrow and grief, to know where it resides in the body, is the only way to move on. Meditation and breath work can become an escape if we're not willing to experience our emotions. They can be powerful balms to soothe a broken heart, but not the antidote.
It's been a long life so far, though it seems short, ups and downs, joys and sorrows, a fascinating journey so far, since my first introduction to meditation. Meditation is like an old companion now. And magic has become ordinary.
May you be well and peaceful and happy. May all sentient beings surrounding you in this space be well and peaceful and happy. May all sentient beings in your neighbourhood be well and peaceful and happy. May all sentient beings in your town be well and peaceful and happy. May all sentient beings in your province be well and peaceful and happy. May all sentient beings in your country be well and peaceful and happy. May all sentient beings in your continent be well and peaceful and happy. May all those sentient beings residing on the planet earth be well and peaceful and happy. May all sentient beings living in the solar system be well and peaceful and happy. May all sentient beings throughout the galaxy be well and peaceful and happy. May all sentient beings in the universe be well and peaceful and happy. May we all be well and peaceful and happy.